RE: i-memes and m-memes

James McComb (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 20:54:19 +1000

From: "James McComb" <>
To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
Subject: RE: i-memes and m-memes
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 20:54:19 +1000

Aaron Agassi:

A microscopic dust particle in a dark cave never seen by any living thing is
a meme, but one with major replicative disadvantages.

James McComb:

There are at least THREE reasons why a microscopic dust particle is not a

FIRST - Memes are CULTURAL units. The word 'meme' is not meant to cover
everything that replicates by non-genetic means. It is only meant to cover
replicators that have cultural effects. As Richard Brodie has pointed out,
there are many different types of replicator.

SECOND - Dust particles fail the mutation test. If you damage a dust
particle, the damage is not passed on to later 'generations' of
dust-particles. This means that dust-particles do not contain encoded
hereditary information.

THIRD - Dust particles don't 'spawn' other dust particles.

Aaron, perhaps you were thinking that a dust particle should count as a
replicator, because the information in a dust particle is at least
POTENTIALLY copiable. However everything is potentially copiable, everything
is potentially a replicator.

It would be pointless to define the word 'replicator' in such a way that
everything in the universe is a replicator. The whole point of drawing a
replicator/non-replicator distinction is that some things in the universe
replicate and others do not.

As for having 'major replicative disadvantages', well... Some replicators
replicate well. Other replicators replicate poorly. But if a replicator
replicates so poorly that it doesn't replicate AT ALL, then there is no
point in continuing to view it as a replicator.

James McComb -

Fidelity! Fecundity! Longevity!

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